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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Our Bipolar Presidential Election History

January 19th, 2019 by dk
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Those who care most about a horse race are not the ones who win or lose money on the results. The most invested are those who feed and train the horses when others aren’t looking. The horses are usually not racing. With that in mind, before the 2020 presidential race shapes up, let’s consider how the racers have shaped us.

Since Eisenhower’s victory in 1952, the White House shifts between parties every eight years. The only two interruptions of this rhythm can be attributed to Ronald Reagan. He swept Carter from office after one term. His vice president, George H.W. Bush, followed him, but for only one term.

Apart from Reagan’s magnetism, our presidential elections have swung from left to right with metronomic regularity for 64 years. Rather than picking winners for the next horse race, let’s look more closely at the track, and how the curves affect our daily lives.

What happens to daily life when the ideals of one party are left to be regulated and enforced by the other party? The disconnects are sharpest when power shifts from Democratic to Republican.

Democrats love to make rules that will better people’s lives. Republicans love to cut taxes and trim the budgets of those charged with enforcing rules. The ideal that informed the original rule fades as societal norms shift in response without attendant regulations.

Our recent political history paints a nation that is less polarized than bi-polarized.

Carter had a plan to de-institutionalize the mentally ill. He cut construction funds for large mental hospitals. He was voted out of office before he could fully fund community-based solutions that were deemed more humane than warehousing patients. Reagan came into office with other priorities, so the money set aside for housing the mentally ill was used elsewhere. But by then, nobody wanted to return to mental hospitals. So nothing was done, and homelessness slowly grew into the epidemic it has become.

Clinton believed that Wall Street had demonstrated its unique power to create wealth in America, so he loosened the regulations on banks and investment firms. His administration kept watchdogs in place, but those watchdogs found their leashes tightened or their teeth removed when George W. Bush came to office.

It’s too soon to know what big changes Obama will be forced to watch undone by his Republican successor. Attempts to weaken the Affordable Care Act continue, but its fate is not yet in any clear jeopardy. A smaller initiative may offer more immediate clarity.

Obama loosened regulations for service dogs to in certain cases include pets that provide other sorts of help, including emotional support. It didn’t take long for people to misunderstand the ideal of equal access and assert for themselves a government-sanctioned right to non-human companionship everywhere they go.

Who will interpret and enforce the federal government’s new regulations about service animals? Not this president. Trump is the first White House resident without a dog since William McKinley died in office in 1901. President McKinley kept several kittens, roosters and a parrot.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Nation Should Hear Oregon’s Primary Concerns

January 18th, 2019 by dk
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The Oregon Legislature convenes its 2019 legislative session on Tuesday. Legislators’ early attention naturally turns to small or simple ideas. We already have a state bird and a state nut and a state this and a state that. Some in the capital call this Salem’s “silly season.” I think of it like a body clearing its throat, hearing itself for the first time in months, finding its collective voice.

I believe our state’s collective voice will sound best in the current political climate as it joins the other Pacific coastline states’ voices. As our Senators and Representatives go looking for that low-hanging legislative fruit that ripens every odd-numbered winter, they should look at what our neighbors are pursuing.

I suggested that Oregon should follow California’s lead on clock-setting — either eliminating Daylight Saving Time or keeping it year-round. Joining California as a co-petitioner will strengthen the case for federal approval. Even better if Washington joins us. We move strongest when we move together. That’s just the beginning.

Oregon and Washington have earned reputations for innovative governance. California has followed us on a variety of cutting-edge issues — assisted suicide, recreational marijuana, voter registration reform, minimum wage increases.

Let’s ride California’s expansive coattails on other matters. Here’s one example: California is moving its presidential primary in 2020 from June to March. Oregon should follow, but at a safe distance.

The 2020 presidential election season is shaping up as an anti-Donald donnybrook. There may be two dozen Democrats vying for the nomination. President Trump may draw a challenger or two. Each candidate will be accompanied by reporters and film crews, eager to convey to the country what each successive state cares about. Why wouldn’t Oregon want some of that attention?

California will vote on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, though in truth, most California ballots will be cast in February. Absentee ballots are readily available and used by 60 to 70 percent of primary voters in California. That number in Oregon is a nice, round 100.

I checked the Oregon Constitution and it does not set a date for primary elections. It also doesn’t set a day of the week, which mattered to voters back when standing in line was required. Any Tuesday in early March will be crowded, leaving a small state like ours overlooked by candidates and the media covering them.

But if we moved our presidential primary election day to Thursday, March 5, 2020 — two days after Super Tuesday — we’d lead the national election coverage for the second half of that week. Wednesday: where next? Thursday: what now? Friday: who won? (Coverage will then quickly move on to Louisiana, where voters will line up to vote on Saturday, March 7.)

Two or three days of uninterrupted attention is about as much as Oregon could bear — or, frankly, deserves. I’d like to watch how film crews convey Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to the rest of the country on their national broadcasts. More importantly, we’d hear from candidates and they’d hear from us during what could be the most consequential campaign of our lifetimes.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Gavel is Now in DeFazio’s Hand

January 18th, 2019 by dk
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U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio could have just about any Congressional office he prefers, but he’s happy with his corner of the Rayburn Office Building. It’s on the second floor, which affords a bit of privacy, and the balcony is large enough to offer group photos with the Capitol dome as a backdrop.

Congressional perks are often doled out by seniority. Corner offices are not least among them. DeFazio has regaled constituents with that corner balcony view for more than a decade. DeFazio is the longest serving Representative ever from Oregon.

He arrived in 1987, replacing Jim Weaver — for whom he had previously been an aide. He’s beginning his 17th term this month, sharing the eighth spot on the House seniority list with civil rights icon John Lewis and Michigan Republican Fred Upton.

Only three Democrats and four Republicans have served longer. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came to Washington several months after DeFazio. When the 116th United States Congress convened last week, DeFazio will be given something he’s never had in Washington: a gavel.

DeFazio now chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, controlling budget and procedural debates for the government’s massive investments in transit connectivity. DeFazio has had his party’s seniority on four of its subcommittees, but now he will oversee the entire committee’s work.

During a time when infrastructure investment is getting dangerously overdue, his committee’s work will be vitally important in the years ahead. If President Trump’s olive branch to the Democratic House includes a revival of his promised $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, those twelve zeroes will be crossing DeFazio’s desk.

It’s about time.

“Public service” is sometimes overused to explain why politicians run for office, but this much is true. Every elected official comes to Washington hoping to somehow make a difference.

The truth is a Congressional seat offers five different paths to wielding substantial influence in Washington. The first three have very little to do with lawmaking, and the fourth has too much. DeFazio has pursued the fifth.

First, you can crisscross the country, raising funds and recruiting candidates for your party — as U.S. Rep. Greg Walden has done. Second, you can join your party’s legislative leadership team, whipping votes and setting legislative calendars. Third, you can make yourself available to the media to speak on your party’s behalf at a moment’s notice. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has chosen this route.

Fourth, you can leave Congress and become a lobbyist — offering to write or reshape legislation that will benefit your clients. Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith plays this role for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Or, fifth, you can show up for work and keep showing up. You must earn your colleagues’ respect, because seniority alone won’t get you a chairmanship. The majority on the committee must vote for you and your party must hold the majority.

Being the ranking member of the minority party, as DeFazio has been for several terms, doesn’t count for much these days. Bipartisanship has fallen far out of favor.

Only the gavel matters. And that’s what’s now in DeFazio’s hand.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

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DeFazio Has a New Tool in This Congress

January 12th, 2019 by dk
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U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio could have his pick of Congressional offices, but he likes his corner of the Rayburn Office Building. It’s on the second floor, which affords a bit of privacy. The balcony is large enough to offer group photos with the Capitol dome as a backdrop.

Congressional perks often are doled out by seniority. Corner offices are not least among them. DeFazio has regaled constituents with that corner balcony view for more than a decade. DeFazio is the longest serving Representative ever from Oregon.

He arrived in 1987, replacing Jim Weaver — for whom he had previously been an aide. He’s beginning his 17th term this month. He shares the eighth spot on the House seniority list with civil rights icon John Lewis and Michigan Republican Fred Upton.

Only three Democrats and four Republicans have served longer. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came to Washington several months after DeFazio. When the 116th United States Congress convened last week, DeFazio was given something he’s never had in Washington: a gavel.

DeFazio now chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He controls the budget and procedural debates for the government’s massive investments in transit connectivity. DeFazio has had his party’s seniority on four of its subcommittees. Now he will oversee the entire committee’s work.

Infrastructure investment is getting dangerously overdue. DeFazio’s committee work will be vitally important in the years ahead. President Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative during his campaign. If it happens, those twelve zeroes will be crossing DeFazio’s desk.

It’s about time.

“Public service” is sometimes overused to explain why politicians run for office, but this much is true. Every elected official comes to Washington hoping to somehow make a difference.

A Congressional seat offers five different paths to wielding substantial influence in Washington. The first three have very little to do with lawmaking, and the fourth has too much. DeFazio has pursued the fifth.

First, you can crisscross the country, raising funds and recruiting candidates for your party. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden has done this. Second, you can join your party’s legislative leadership team, whipping votes and setting legislative calendars. Third, you can make yourself available to the media at a moment’s notice. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has chosen this route.

Fourth, you can leave Congress and become a lobbyist, writing or shaping legislation to benefit your clients. Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith plays this role for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Or, fifth, you can show up for work and keep showing up. You must earn your colleagues’ respect. Seniority alone won’t get you a chairmanship. The majority on the committee must vote for you and your party must hold the majority.

Being the ranking member of the minority party doesn’t count for much these days. Bipartisanship has fallen far out of favor since DeFazio first came to town.

Only the gavel matters now. And that’s what’s now in DeFazio’s hand.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.

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Eugene and Paris Have Some Amazing Similarities

January 11th, 2019 by dk
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I’ve caught some flack lately from readers and friends for comparing Eugene to Paris. What does our quiet little town have to do with one of the greatest cities on Earth — a city with 2,000 years of history and 2.2 million residents? More than you might have guessed.

Start with the physical size of each. Eugene takes up 40.54 square miles, Paris 40.7 square miles. You read that right. The difference is 100 acres. With the ongoing annexations in the Santa Clara area, Eugene’s footprint will soon be larger than Paris’s. They are currently almost identical.

This little factoid could come in handy the next time we are debating whether Eugene needs to expand its urban growth boundary. Paris holds more than 12 times as many people, and still retains its quality of life. We complain about the influx of visitors in Eugene before a big football game or the Oregon Country Fair, but Paris draws an estimated 34 million tourists every year. It still functions fairly smoothly.

Paris must make room for all those people with vertical growth, right? Wrong. Paris and Eugene instituted building height limits around the same time and for the same reason. Ya-Po-Ah Terrace opened in 1968, obscuring some views of Skinner Butte.

Tour Montparnasse was constructed from 1969 to 1973. It regularly makes the short list of ugliest buildings in the world. It sits on the axis between the city’s two most recognizable structures. Stand at the Arc de Triumph and look at the Eiffel Tower. Montparnasse looms exactly behind Eiffel.

Parisians love their Eiffel Tower the way we love Skinner Butte. By the mid-1970s, both cities instituted height limits for new construction. Theirs are more strict than ours. We allow 12 stories in most places. Paris currently allows no more than seven.

Both cities have a river that meanders in from the east, taking a hard turn before it reaches the city’s center. The River Seine turns left and the Willamette River curves right. Each river carves a quarter of the city away from the rest. The southeast quadrant of Paris famously became home to French Bohemia. Our northeast section has most of the city’s McMansions, leaving the rest of Eugene more Bohemian. They have their Left Bank bookstores. We have our North Bank restaurant.

If you feel adventuresome, hike down to each river’s edge and you can see how residents survived centuries ago. Huge mooring rings remain embedded in cobblestone from when merchant ships would dock in Paris’s center. Eugene’s muddy riverfront is often littered with the remnants of people camping without any conveniences more modern than a bicycle.

Finally, the two cities share a remarkably similar terroir. A friend who had a landscaping business in Eugene told me he was amazed that they were growing all the same plants in Paris as he had tended in Eugene. The seasons and the soil are mostly the same.

Eugene regularly struggles to articulate its ambitions. We share plenty of characteristics with what many consider the greatest city in the world. Paris has 37 bridges and Eugene has only nine, so we do have a little catching up to do.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Who Cares About Causes When Effects Can Be Denied?

January 7th, 2019 by dk
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It turns out things are worse than we thought. We knew that a significant portion of the current Republican Party has lost faith in science. But it’s becoming apparent that they also don’t believe in cause and effect. In fact (and I don’t use those two words lightly), that may be their central gripe with science — the “effect” part of cause and effect.

We now know that some climate-change skeptics do believe that humans are causing changes in the earth’s atmosphere. The current administration admitted as much in court documents in their rebuttal to Eugene’s Climate Kids case. It’s just that they are less than positive that those human-caused changes are having a specific effect on the environment.

Do actions have consequences? This is where certain people have become less than certain.

Last month, the Associated Press analyzed federal documents that justified the current administration’s decision to rescind an Obama-era regulation requiring electronic brakes on trains carrying explosive fuels. The brake rule was canceled, at the request of railroad and oil industry lobbyists, because it was calculated to be too expensive.

The AP study found that the federal government’s numbers omitted over $100 million that the rule would save by avoiding the damages incurred by train derailments that would be prevented. When confronted by what seemed to be a blatant miscalculation, Department of Transportation officials replied, essentially, “We meant to do that.” They don’t see why the cost — the consequence — of doing nothing should be taken into account.

Other examples have gotten more attention. They demonstrate a belief that elections shouldn’t have consequences. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina were voted out of the majority in 2016, so they used their remaining days in power to strip certain powers from the incoming Democratic leadership.

Republicans have done the same this winter in Michigan and Wisconsin, denying incoming Democratic governors certain powers that had been wielded by their Republican predecessors. Elections may have consequences, but not always the ones voters intended.

And then there’s Missouri, where the rebuke of the voters’ decision is the most direct. Missouri citizens overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have subjected lawmakers to the state’s open-records law and reformed the process for drawing legislative districts.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson plans to lead Republican lawmakers to repeal the amendment and replace it with something more to their liking. And, in case the voters don’t get the message, they also plan to increase the number of signatures required to have future initiative petitions placed on the ballot. Voters in Missouri should be seen but not heard from.

“Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn’t be changing that vote,” Parson told the AP. “But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something’s unconstitutional, if you know some of it’s not right.”

I can only guess how dispiriting this is to the volunteers who worked on “Clean Missouri.” Who wants to take up a cause when those in power can simply deny its effect?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Eugene Needs the Skyline Icon It Already Has

January 7th, 2019 by dk
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Eugene native Quinn Wilhemi Reilly had a vision in October, and anyone in San Francisco after dark on Halloween got to see it. It started as a Facebook post. That spurred an online petition. Eleven thousand signatures later, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” had its biggest hit since Peter Jackson’s films — if not its biggest hit, certainly its tallest.

Before we follow the plot, some atmospherics to set the stage: San Francisco has a new skyscraper. The Salesforce Tower is the city’s tallest building, 61 stories of glass and metal. The top floor observation deck is free and open to the public. The view from the top, thanks to cutting-edge technology, goes both ways. The tower’s top nine stories are outfitted with 11,000 programmable LEDs, projecting a video-screen and light show that can be seen from 20 miles away.

As these ever-changing images were staring down at Reilly and his friends, he suggested online that it would be fun and cool if it displayed the Eye of Sauron, a gaze that it was said few in Tolkien’s Middle Earth could endure. And when better to have this fun than on Halloween?

The resulting petition’s success caught the attention of Jim Campbell. He coordinates the rooftop displays on the edifice. Nothing was confirmed before Halloween night, but parties were planned around viewing what might or might not appear overhead that evening. San Franciscans don’t need much of an excuse to throw a party. The eye appeared, delighting Tolkien fans, partygoers, and especially Reilly.

Will topical light shows endear the Salesforce Tower to its neighbors below? History says yes. Paris hadn’t planned on keeping the Eiffel Tower past its original 20-year lifespan, but electric lights turned the structure into the popular icon it is today.

The Eiffel Tower’s light display became even more popular with LED technology in time for the beginning of this millennium. Again, what had been intended as temporary became permanent, after the city’s residents insisted. The Eiffel Tower is now the most photographed structure in the world.

Those two successes got me thinking about our own not-very-well-loved tower. A light show could makes its presence against the night sky welcome and even emblematic for the city of Eugene.

Ya-Po-Ah Terrace, Eugene’s tallest building, is undergoing a $29 million makeover. The senior housing structure has never been well loved by anyone but its residents. Where it doesn’t obscure the view of Skinner Butte, it defaces it. The Eugene City Council instituted building height limits almost immediately after Ya-Po-Ah opened in 1968.

Half a century later, its height could become an important asset to downtown.

Our tower’s most redeeming feature is on display for only a few weeks every year. “PEACE ON EARTH” is beamed from its roof every December. I propose we remove the holiday garlands and make its message a permanent, year-round feature of our nighttime skyline, along with an hourly LED light show.

Eugene residents will see an iconic, inspirational message — and an excuse to throw a party.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Writers Will Sometimes Give You the Quote off Their Back

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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I don’t know what to think or say or do about what happened to me the other night. But I know my experience is not uncommon, so I’m going to bring you along with me on my train of thought — even though I don’t know where it leads.

I heard that an outreach event for our less fortunate neighbors was occurring at a church a couple of miles from my home. My family’s holiday plans left me free for the evening, so I volunteered. I also decided I would walk to the church. Why not take a little extra time to reflect on the holiday spirit? Well, rain would be why not, but there wasn’t any, so I bundled up and walked.

The organizers greeted me warmly, but their feared shortage of volunteers had become a surplus. Dishwashers and cooks needed no help. I was given an easy task: to organize a table filled with shirts and sweaters and coats for men, free for the taking.

After folding and refolding shirts and sweaters for an hour, I wandered across the room to see if the dishwashing situation had changed. That’s when I noticed something about my coat, hung near a staff area across from the kitchen. My coat wasn’t there. I checked the floor and the area around it, but nothing resembling my puffy blue down jacket was anywhere around.

I went back to my clothing giveaway station, pausing at every patch of navy blue along the way. My coat, my hat, and my scarf were definitely gone.

I fibbed to the organizer and said something had come up. (I didn’t say something had gone away.) I asked if I could leave early, since help was plentiful. I also said I’d like to help again, not fibbing. I rushed because I knew my walk would get much colder after dark. I had a brisk time for reflection — though not as warmly as I had planned.

I wasn’t concerned about replacing the coat. The scarf was a souvenir from France, but nothing worth fretting over. My thoughts turned to deeper matters. I noticed myself checking pockets for my keys and my phone at least a dozen times, as if they could be taken from me as I walked.

My afternoon heart, filled with liberal charity, was now replaced with cold evening air and a reflex to conserve what I (still) had. Do sentiments always flow more swiftly downward? One small loss and my self-protection instincts were kicking in.

I can learn to store my coat in a safer place. Others may choose to stay home and write a check to the same charity. And others just stay home, doors locked, thinking the worst about other people. Is there any meaningful difference between these expressions of self-protection? Do they differ only by degree? (This is where Francis strips naked and walks into the woods, but there are no saints here.)

Replacing things is easy. Restoring trust is harder. I’m trying to find ways to make more connections with others from this experience, not fewer. You’re helping, and I appreciate it.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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A Truth-Telling Strategy That Will Totally Work

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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We’re going to have to amend the playbook, because it’s not giving us a plan that addresses willful, repeated lies from positions that project authority — positions that have always demanded and deserved respect.

News gathering is always one or two steps removed from actual events. I tell you stories so that you can feel like you were there, even though you weren’t. Most stories become even further removed, especially the big ones, because we follow and understand statistics better than people.

Stories about people are always complicated. Those complications are easily hidden behind numbers. Statistics are always less than the whole truth, even if they are not themselves untrue.

The present challenge to journalism is very different. According to The Washington Post, President Trump made 7,546 false or misleading claims through Dec. 20, his 700th day in office. How can journalists respond to such rampant disregard for truth?

How can we retain our integrity, covering subjects who have abandoned theirs? When sources spew public falsehoods, should we report them as false or refuse to report them at all? Either way, we’re trading in Fake News. It’s a Catch-22.

Not reporting everything the president says won’t work in a media landscape as diverse as ours. Even if we could, it wouldn’t matter. The president communicates directly to millions of followers with a tweet, bypassing all the gatekeepers.

No editor wants to clutter a page with disclaimers and dependent clauses. They can insert “without providing evidence” and “despite the consensus among experts,” but the president’s words must still be presented as he said them.

Fact checkers do their best to keep up, but their columns are read most often by people who already have a strong bias they are looking to confirm. Follow-up stories debunking previous assertions seldom attract the same attention given to the original claim. Casual readers prefer to read what’s new when they are reading the news. Corrections and clarifications never are.

So let’s try this. Use italics whenever a quote asserts a fact that cannot be verified or is verifiably false. Television news can blur the edges around a picture when the statements being given are untrue. Newscasters and reporters should signal dubious claims with “air quote” gestures. If radio and podcasts manipulated the voice making unfounded claims, the cartoonish intent could be conveyed without omitting words spoken.

Each medium will need its own signal to its audience that something less than true is being told. Truth be told, we’ve needed this for a long time. Who really wants to read an in-depth follow piece about whether a hastily departing executive really ends up spending more time with their family?

We’ve delegated the eye-rolling mostly to opinion writers, but their readers are similar to the fact checkers’. What we need — and suddenly, desperately so — are signals to use when the words that were spoken are somehow less weighty than what’s actually so. Italics can do that without slowing the reader or cluttering the copy.

Will it work? Of course it will work. All we can say for sure is, we’ve got to try something.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Gifts This President Could Give Us

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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We’re a diverse nation. We don’t agree on much. We celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or solstice. Seinfeld fans are somewhere celebrating “Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.” Our December traditions do share one organizing feature — gift-giving.

Voters recently gave themselves the gift of divided government, but they didn’t agree exactly what that gift should look like. Some would like to see impeachment papers in their stocking. Others will be happy with more coal. The largest majority did make one thing clear. They don’t want nothing. Governmental gridlock pleases no one.

We have a president who fancies himself a builder and an all-around rich guy. There are gifts his government could us that affirms what he believes about himself, while also pleasing his citizenry. I’ll list three. You’ll think of others.

Starting with the basics, everybody needs a bathroom once in a while. Our builder-in-chief should insist that public buildings include them.

Every police and fire station should have a bathroom that’s accessible to the public 24 hours a day — post offices, libraries and larger government buildings, when they are open. Encourage and reward businesses to provide facilities, especially those that stay open all night.

Monitoring the bathrooms to prevent bad hygiene and illicit behavior creates complexity, but the federal government is best suited to meet complex needs. We need government to solve problems that seem both intractable and ubiquitous. Sewers never could have been built by compassionate citizens without government resources.

Second, let’s bury every utility wire. Telephone poles are so 1955! They create hazards and outages during every major storm. These “shovel-ready” public works projects would bring jobs to every acre of America.

The jobs will be temporary, but the beauty will be permanent. Earlier in my life, I was a professional photographer (as was my father.) I married an artist because her landscape paintings could do what my photographs couldn’t — eliminate the wires that we’ve trained ourselves to overlook. (Our marriage ended around the time Photoshop was introduced, but I’m sure that was a coincidence.)

Beauty benefits all of us, almost always in ways we do not understand. That’s why my last request of Washington politicians is also the simplest. It would help arts organizations immensely. Use the Oregon Cultural Trust as the template for a federal tax credit program.

If you don’t know about the Oregon Cultural Trust, you should. Here’s how it works. If you donate up to $500 to any (or many) of the hundreds of cultural non-profits registered with in Oregon, you can then donate the same amount to the Oregon Cultural Trust, which then gives grants to arts organizations across the state.

Your OCT donation earns you an equivalent state income tax credit, so your second donation costs you nothing. The state is essentially doubling your donation’s impact on behalf of the arts in Oregon. It’s a program that is unique to Oregon, but we’d be more than happy to share the concept with the rest of the nation.

This is, after all, the season of giving.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. Learn more about the Oregon Cultural Trust at www.culturaltrust.org.

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